Finding My Calm In A Sea of Chaos

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

We meet again, from the far away shores of China, Beijing to be exact, to where ever you all reside in this vast, vast world we all live in.  As I was going over my notes of upcoming blog ideas for you all (yes I keep notes ) 😛 I realized that I have been remiss in writing about all of the adventures and historical sites I have had the pleasure to already explore while being in here in China for over 3 months already!

So for today’s blog we are going to backtrack a bit,  all the way back to January, and let me share with you all my trip to the famed Lama Temple, right here in downtown Beijing.

Let’s go…

The Lama Temple or Yonghegong Temple is a temple and monastery of the Gelug School of Tibetian Buddhism, located in the Dongcheng District.  It was built in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty to be used as the residence of the Emperor YongZheng, who was the third Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, before he ascended to the throne.

Accompanying this beautifully crafted piece of architecture are many pavilions which served and functioned the various needs of the Emperor and monks. (Insert houses to be occupied by the Emperors many ladies in waiting, other wise known as a concubine and or mistresses, in contrast to many temples filled with different, but beautifully ornate manifestations of Buddha statues.  It really is a Ying with a Yang kinda scenario.

I really didn’t know what to expect, which has become my philosophy while living here in China really. When I walked through the gates, I didn’t expect to feel this rush of calm and peace to wash over me as I visited each of the ornate buildings – But, that is exactly what happened.

Allow me to explain…

As many of you know, I am not a religious person.  Even though I was raised a Catholic (shout out to all my St. Mikes peeps!) Now I am not going to get into a debate here about organized religion.  If you find something about believing and practicing one that resonates with you or gives you that sense of purpose or faith or peace or whatever you’re looking for, then awesome – all the power to you.  I however do not have these same beliefs or experiences.  I would characterize me as more of a spiritual person, who connects with  and responds to energy and vibration from everyone and everything around me. That is my ‘religion’ if you will.

But I digress, I honestly didn’t know what to expect visiting a place with such ‘religious’ meaning for those practicing Buddhists here in China.

Fun fact – Did you know…

“China is a multi-religious country.  Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism have all developed into culture shaping communities throughout China’s history.  Freedom of belief is a government policy, and normal religious activities are protected by the constitution.”

So me being a person who is greatly affected by others energy including my own, I wasn’t sure if my energy was going to jive in this religious place.  But you know what, as I partook in an incense burning ceremony and just allowed my heart and my mind to be open to the experience, this overwhelming wave of calm and peace swept over me like a gentle wave.  It really was a wonderfully beautiful, peaceful and calming experience that I wouldn’t have changed for anything.

As I entered each new temple, filled with a new Buddha manifestation, I was pulled into the tradition and beauty of the ritual and practice that I once partook in Sunday morning mass.  It really was magical.

The best way to show you what I experienced is through the numerous pictures and videos I took.  Take a gander…

 

Are you wondering if I am now at an internal crossroads of once again becoming religious or remaining an agnostic?

Nope, I’m still an agnostic, but now I have a new found open mind and appreciation for what religion can offer those that feel a connection and who need that sense of belonging – surrounding themselves with other like minded individuals.  That sense of community that church can offer those that feel lost or disconnected from life and from others can not be dismissed or discounted.  This I will acknowledge and have a new found appreciation for.

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me, and taking the time to read my ramblings, but before we go, let me ask you this, what experiences have you had in life that surprised or maybe altered your perception you once had, good or bad?

I can’t wait to hear your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light Always,

Dina xxoo

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Top Six Things To Know As An Expat Living In China

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters,

I’m baccccccck, hopefully on a more consistent basis this time, I mean that is the plan and my intention – OK here goes!

Did you miss me?  I sure as hell missed all of you terribly! Who knew trying to move to a new country, hell a new continent, diving into a brand new career would actually disrupt my rhythm and way of doing things – I mean come on, who would have thunk that one, I mean not me, I’m freaking invincible and can handle any and every disruption or chaos that comes my way, right!? 😛

Well, as it would turn out folks, and it pains me to admit this – I am NOT superwoman and EVEN I have my limits.  OUCH, that was a hard one to admit, but alas it is true.  A few more revelations I have come to understand since moving to China as an Expat, a mere three months ago will be discussed further, in well, this very blog!

So let’s begin shall we…

1. Hygiene

Your concept of ‘good’ hygiene and China’s concept of ‘good’ hygiene you’ll discover is vastly different!

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As most of you know, China has a little something called a ‘squat toilet’.  These little gems are basically a hole in the floor, where as the name indicates, you ‘squat’ over and well do your business.  Just take a moment to think about that, and how we as women urinate.  I don’t know about you, but I never really gave it much thought as to ‘how’ my pee comes out on a western toilet, but let me tell you, you sure as hell learn real quick on a squat toilet as you’re pissing on your shoe trying to aim for that bulls eye blind.  Not to mention, toilet paper is not provided for you sometimes at all or at the very least not in the stall, but rather outside, so you have to decide before you go in, is it going to be a 4 or 12 sheet kinda experience.  God forbid, you think you gotta only pee and SURPRISE a number two plops out – Well folks you are shit outta luck, like literally. 😛

Additionally, many of these ‘restrooms’, have no soap to wash your hands.  So bringing in your own Purell and tissues with you becomes part of your China survival kit, while the North American custom of shaking hands just goes out the window. Because of this squat ability, it is not uncommon to see adult men, women and children just dropping their pants and squatting to urinate and defecate right on the sidewalk in plain view.  I never believed these rumors until it happened to me the first time walking down the street, and a gentleman just dropped his pants and proceeded to take a dump right there on the street, it was like a freaking train wreck, you know you’re not supposed to look but you just can’t help yourself – All the while in my head I kept repeating, ‘Nooooooo, he isn’t gonna, no, no, no, he wouldn’t, HOLY SHIT, yup there he goes.  Dear God keep walking, don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact..’ as I hurriedly ran by, shaken and quite frankly disturbed.

2. You’re a Fucking Unicorn

As a white foreigner or ‘laowai’ – When you walk down the street, especially in the more ‘rural’ or’suburban’ areas like where I am here in Fengtai district, you definitely do stand out and are kinda like the circus side show performer you would see at those old school vaudeville shows. I literally have been videoed with people’s phones as I walk down the street, been stopped countless times to ask if I would take a selfie with random strangers or have witnessed looks of shock and awe and wonder on the faces of Chinese residents as I walk by.

Is this what celebrities feel like when they go out in public? Cause its fucking weird!

The part I do enjoy is the shy Chinese children who see me and are so curious and a bit stand offish, so I usually try to wave hello and interact.  They either get so excited, smile and say hello back or run behind their mothers scared and screaming.  It’s pretty much a crap shoot, but I like my odds. 🙂

3. Beijing Traffic Or Should I Say Traf-fuck

So I get asked all the time from my family and friends back in Canada, ‘so is traffic in China as bad as everyone says it is?’ YES, YES it is! They’re basically are no rules, if it says you can walk as a pedestrian, that doesn’t mean a car isn’t going to turn into the crosswalk from any direction, because they do and they don’t give a crap if your walking or not.  Sidewalks are fair game for motorized scooters to come whipping by on as well.

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When I first got here, I can’t count how many times I almost had a heart attack crossing the street.  I would have to psych myself up, like I was getting ready to enter Thunderdome – Give myself pep talks, fight the feeling to flee or curl up in the fetal position, before I worked up the nerve to step off the curb and into the abyss.  Now, I’m just a hardened veteran that can bob and weave and merge with abandon.

Strange how quickly we adapt isn’t it!?

However, don’t even get me started on driving in a car here – Getting cut off or bumped or side swiped is just common place.  Car horns will assault your ears daily, but it doesn’t always mean the same thing as it does in Canada.  Because they’re no rules of the road here – Honking has become a sort of signalling system to other drivers and pedestrians to let them know you are there and of course to also say ‘WTF dude!’

But, through it all, I have to say there is almost a sort of beauty in the chaos of it.  For some reason they make it work, it’s almost like witnessing a fluid, elegantly choreographed automobile ballet, where everyone has their own bit parts.

4. Baijiu Really Is ‘White Poison’

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This stuff is no joke folks, this shit will mess you up! Baijiu is the national Chinese alcohol and even Chinese people are in awe when they see a foreigner drink it.  It’s cheap, tastes like turpentine and around 60 proof.  I was ‘initiated’ on this stuff when I first arrived and let me tell you – Hammered doesn’t even come close to the level of intoxication I experienced.

Seriously, the brew master has got to be the devil himself ya’ll!

5. Air Pollution Is Real

I must say compared to last year, the air pollution has been much better overall, but it is not uncommon for you to begin your day with AQI (Air Quality Index) of 50 which is normal and within a couple of hours it is over 300 which is very unhealthy.  The National AQI app will become your right hand letting you know the levels every 30 minutes.  You have to understand Beijing, is located in a bit of a valley due to the mountain ranges surrounding it.  So, if we don’t get high winds to blow the pollution away, it just kinda sits there and builds up.  Face masks are a MUST!  You may feel like Mad Max, but your lungs will thank you.

But, I will give some kudos to the Chinese government who have quickly implemented structures and procedures to ensure that China with be sourcing 40% of their energy from renewable resources by 2020.  They are already well on their way.  Coal emissions have reduced drastically, because of the influx of solar and wind power resources, car pollution has been reduced as well – On high pollution days random cars with random license plate numbers are forbidden to drive on those days and if they are caught driving they are made to pay a stiff fine.  In addition, they also put restrictions on construction during these high days as well.  All of these efforts have proven to already drastically reduce the amount of pollution produced here in Beijing.

6. Warm Water The Magic Elixir

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Little known fact – Warm water will cure anything that ails you.  No really, it’s true, at least that has been my prescription given to me since I got here by EVERY Chinese person I’ve met.  I could have a cough, sniffle, ear ache, sinus headache, broken toe nail, bruised knee, bullet wound – OK I haven’t had a bullet wound here but I have had all of the above, but I could almost guarantee somebody would say “You need to drink more warm water, that’ll fix you right up.” Yup – So doctors in Canada you need to start carrying warm water in your medical bag, save you so much time and money, you heard it here first. 😛

All in all, these past few months have been about discovery, adventure, facing fears and stepping outside of my comfort zone.  China has been an incredible backdrop to have all of this unfold for me.  I kind of relate China to that one drunk uncle we all have that comes to all the family get togethers – You know he is gonna make a scene, but at the very least you’e gonna have a laugh and a good time in spite of and because of it.

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me and taking the time to read my ramblings.  But, before we go, let me ask you this, what strange and wonderful things have you experienced traveling to a foreign country?

I can’t wait to hear your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light Always,

Dina xxoo

 

 

Christmas in Beijing

Hello there my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

It is I, Dina, writing you once again from a far away land called Beijing.  I hope that my little ramblings find you all well and full steam ahead into your personal and professional goals for 2018!

As I had mentioned in my last blog, Beijing, she is one crazy town – Full of culture, traditions, beauty and sometimes just sheer wackiness!  Like anything in life, you gotta take the good with the bad and find your balance, and in this case, a little piece of home while living so far away – As it would turn out, that little piece of home came to me in the form of Christmas.

Yes, you read that right, I celebrated Christmas in Beijing and it was wonderful!

Allow me explain…

You would be correct in thinking that Christmas is not really a widely celebrated tradition here in Beijing, hell China for that matter, as the largest part of the population here are practicing Buddhists.  But, you are beginning to see more and more shop keepers put up decorations, trees and lights in their establishments.  It is a welcoming sight to be able to see and revel in the awe of all the traditions that I grew up with in Canada – Minus of course cooking a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as many do not have ovens in their homes or have ever even seen or eaten a turkey here, true story but I digress…

I was delighted to see that the school I am teaching at was actually participating in their own Christmas of sorts – A Christmas Club for all of their beautiful and eager students and parents.  In preparation for this event, I did have the foresight to bring my own ugly Christmas sweater to beat all other ugly Christmas sweaters – Full of tassels, reindeer, and blinking lights – No really, my sweater lit up ya’ll! 😛

When the day came for us to bring a little of the West to the far East, I was pumped and ready to be a Canadian Ambassador to this little cultural exchange.  We designed a day filled with awe and wonder just as the tradition of Christmas should be. Parents and their eager children were greeted with gingerbread house building stations, Christmas card decorating stations, pictures with Santa, singers, dancers and even Tae Kwon Doe demonstrations.  The looks on their faces when they saw the twinkling lights on my sweater or the awe of being able to build a house out of cookies, candy and frosting was just a marvel to witness.

This day was a wonderful reminder that children no matter where they are from, are truly the gift we get to open everyday by being spellbound along with them as they begin their journey of firsts – First time they walk, they say their first word, tie their shoe or see Santa Clause for the first time.  All of these experiences allow each and everyone of us to tap into our gratitude and awe of what life can truly be if we just learn to trust and believe not only in others, but more importantly in ourselves.  Life is wonderful, you just have to open your mind, and your hearts to experience it…

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me, your support and you taking the time out of your busy schedules to read my shenanigans each and every week, that never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before you go, let me ask you this – When was the last time you allowed yourself the unbridled joy of having a ‘first time’ experience? What was it?

I can not wait to hear your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Beijing Or Bust

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters – I’m back bitches!

Happy New Year, and boy what a year it is going to be!

As many of you already know I have embarked on a journey to the Far East, Beijing China to be exact, for a year long adventure in  this new land, with new cultures, new traditions and a new job – I am teaching English as a Second Language to 3 – 12 yr old children in the Fengtai District of Beijing.

You maybe wondering, ‘Dina, why in the hell would you choose to leave the safety, security and comfort of your home, family and friends, traipse off to a foreign country where you don’t even speak the language for over a year long stay – why?’

Well, allow me to explain…

Did I ever think that at the ripe old age of 45 yrs old, I would pack my bags, and my entire life actually and move half way around the world to start over in a new job and a new life? Fuck no!

But, what I have learned these over these last 45 trips around the sun, is that sometimes you just gotta ‘FUCK IT’ and go after those opportunities that present themselves.  You may not understand why they are appearing to you, but you need to trust in the process and not ask why, but instead just have faith and take that big ass leap outside of your comfort zone and just trust that your wings will appear.

So out of an unorthodox situation – My ex boyfriend (the one I had mentioned in an earlier blog) presented me with this opportunity to come teach here in Beijing.  YES, you read that right, my ex offered me a job and I took it.  Did I mention that he is technically my boss?  Yeah that’s a whole other blog on its own for another day. 😛

Since my contract was ending with President’s Choice Financial in Toronto – I thought ‘You know what, I don’t have any other job prospects on the horizon and I have felt like I have been in a rut the past while – Why not shake things up a bit and just go for it. And I did!

Beginning the process back in October of 2017, I begin the tedious and arduous task of applying for my work visa in China, which seriously may just be a blog all on its own – No seriously its a freaking process yo!

Once I went through the process of getting my criminal record check, copy of my Bachelors Degree, TESOL (Teaching English Second Language) certificate and my CV all copied, notarized and authenticated by both Canada and the Chinese Consulate – YES by both! I was finally able to apply for my Foreign Expert Certificate and my actual Visa.  3 trips to the China Visa Office in Toronto and like 2 days before I was scheduled to fly to Beijing I finally had my visa in my hot little hands! PHEW!

I had my last hurrah with my lovely family and friends, who all understand why I was leaving, but were also very sad to see me go.  Magically, I was able to figure out how to pack my entire life into 3 suitcases and 1 carry on – Real life example of human Tetris folks!

The morning came for me to leave and Murphy’s freaking law, we get a freak snowstorm (which by the looks of the winter you have all had, that was just a foreshadow of what was to come for you all – Sorry about that :P)  My car service apparently came to our door twice to come and pick me up, but I wasn’t able to hear them.  Being 2 hours early for a 4:30am pick up will tend to do that 😛 Needless to say I was sleeping, when they arrived the first 2 times. 😛

Thankfully I called and got another driver to circle around so that I could begin my relocation to Beijing.  Did I mention that the roads were covered in snow and ice, my driver was driving like a maniac and I literally white knuckled it all the way to the airport in Toronto.  Yeah that happened.  Little did I know, that this was my foreshadow for what was to come driving in Beijing – More on that to come 😛

Thankfully, got there in one piece and proceeded to show my hulking muscles by being the only one that could adequately lift my large suitcases – Me strong like bull!

Checked in and waited for my flight to be called.  Due to the weather, we were a few minutes late to take off.  Those few minutes turned into a couple of hours 😦  We were waiting for other flight crew to arrive so they could fly to Calgary with us – Come on Westjet!  Because of this, I missed my connecting flight to Beijing.  Gotta say, that made me lose some points with you.

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However, when we finally took off after having to de-ice the plane TWICE, they had all of my hotel and new flight arrangements all figured out by the time I landed.  OK, you won those and few more points back Westjet!

I got an night out in Calgary folks – the hotel was lovely, clean, modern and brand new.  The restaurant downstairs was exquisite.  The food and service was exceptional.  You know the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’?  Well, I think me missing my connecting flight to Beijing allowed me to de-stress, have a wonderful meal and get a good night’s sleep before I continued my journey to first my ole stomping grounds of Vancouver and then off to China the following day.

 

After landing in Vancouver and treating myself to a Eggnog Latte (SO GOOD), I quickly boarded my flight and arrived in Beijing 13 hrs later.

Navigating the Beijing airport is a little bit confusing, but not impossible as most things are written in English and Chinese or you can easily find an attendant that can speak some English to assist you.  Here you go through customs for the FIRST time, without your luggage.  Next you take a subway transit like system to go and retrieve your luggage.  Side Note:  These are not uncommon overseas as I had to do just the same when I flew into Heathrow Airport 5 years ago so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the experience.  Once you pick up your luggage you then must go through another security check point WITH your luggage.  Finally, if you then decide you would like to take the attached subway system or public transit to reach your destination, you then go through ANOTHER security check point as well.  Yes you get padded down and wanded 3 times before you leave the airport.  Come to think of it, I had a date like that once 😛

 

Very different to what we are used to here in Canada, but then again I ain’t in Kansas anymore peeps!  My recruiter Nina met me, and we embarked on my 1.5 hrs drive in a taxi to my new home in Fengtai.  What is my home like?  Well, let’s save that for another blog 🙂

Stay tuned, lots more to come!

Thank you all once again for coming along on this crazy blog writing journey with me and supporting me every time you take the time out of your busy schedule to read my ramblings.  That never goes unnoticed or unappreciated!  But, before we go let me ask you this – Have you ever just trusted your instincts and just jumped right out of your comfort zone and into a brand new life and experience not knowing how you will navigate it but, just knew you would figure it out along the way?

Can not wait to hear your experiences!

Till next time,

I send you all love & light.

Dina xxoo

Hot Mess Mondays

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters out there!

We are coming close to the end of October and about to dance into November and I don’t know about you, but I have been a bit like a hot mess these past few weeks – Not as focused or productive as I would like to be and not getting to those goals that I so eloquently have put forth for myself.  For some of you this sounds normal and for others not so much.

So in my effort to come up with a blog topic for you this week, being in the ‘hot mess’ state that I was feeling, I couldn’t come up with anything.  Nope, it would seem that that creativity or inspiration tank was empty and I was perplexed.  So instead of beating myself up for it or fighting what I was feeling, I decided to go with it and think outside the box and write you a reenactment of how I was feeling – thinking that many of you can relate, I decided to create it around a short story, a ‘hot mess’ scenario if you will.  Rules are meant to be broken right? So here I am breaking my own rules for blogging – Here is my short story – My Hot Mess Monday…

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The blaring alarm clock pierces Charlotte’s eardrums, jarring her from her much needed slumber. She reluctantly rolls over and smacks the snooze button with all the strength she can muster. “Dear God, it is too early” she mutters into her deflated pillow. Charlotte takes one last sigh and rolls over, throws the duvet off of her pajama clothed body and gets herself out of bed, takes a stretch and a yawn and shuffles herself off to the bathroom.

Charlotte takes a look at herself in the mirror, her hair is disheveled, her mouth tastes like the bottom of a birdcage, and she has smeared and partially worn off make-up with a small bit of some unknown crusty goop in the corner of her eye. In the upper right hand corner of the mirror there is a little post it note with the quote “40 is Fabulous!” hand scrawled across its beaming yellow hue. Charlotte while rubbing her eye reads the inspirational post it and takes another look in the bathroom mirror, blinks a couple of times at the image reflecting back at her and begins to chuckle and mutter, “Yup I’m fucking fabulous alright.” She shakes her head, opens up the medicine cabinet, pulls out her toothbrush and tooth paste and begins to brush her teeth. Charlotte gets ready for her day.

Charlotte runs down the stairs trying to button up the last of the buttons on her dress shirt. She rushes into the kitchen and pours herself a cup of much needed coffee. She takes a look at the clock on the microwave, “Crap I’m late!” Charlotte puts the lid on her travel mug, grabs her coat, purse and keys and runs out the door.

Charlotte is speed walking her way to the bus stop. “Man I really need to work out more” Charlotte thinks as her wobbling thighs and buttocks burn. Behind her she can hear the rapidly approaching familiar chugging and whirring sounds of the Number 9 bus. “Aw man not again” Charlotte breaks into her signature flailing chicken run of terror. Loud grinding and whirring sounds hunt, overtake and leave Charlotte in the dust or more literally in the drink; a cold splash of muddy puddle water leaves her drenched. “Are you effing kidding me!” Charlotte screams as she reaches the bus stop out of breath and clearly irritated. The Number 9 bus is still loading its passengers. Charlotte dripping wet and pissed off steps onto the bus and glares at the bus driver. “Oops, sorry about that sweetie” The bus driver says with a bit of a chuckle. Charlotte beyond irritated, “First off, I ain’t your freakin sweetie, second off George, you’re a dick, get over yourself, you’re a effing bus driver not a brain surgeon!” “Excuse me I am NOT a bus driver I am a Transport Technician” Charlotte wipes her face with her soggy sleeve, puts her fare in the fare box and leans into George and says, “Oh that is right I forgot a Transportation Technician, translated means, I have a small dick so I must overcompensate by driving the biggest piece of crap machinery known to man.” Charlotte drops the last of the coins in the fare box and takes her ticket. George shakes his head and mutters “Bitch” Charlotte mutters “Dick” and walks back to her seat.  Charlotte plops down next to an unsuspecting middle aged male passenger quietly reading his newspaper. As Charlotte sits almost in defeat the man looks up from his paper, Charlotte is still dripping wet and still panting from running. The man looks at Charlotte in puzzlement. Charlotte casually looks over at the man, wipes water dripping down her face with her sleeve and gives the man a cordial half smile and says “Hey, whatcha reading, anything worthwhile in there?” The man still puzzled at her very wet and distressed attire, stares at Charlotte and blinks a couple of times before replying, “Oh you know, same old, same old, death, destruction, falling economy, who is Lindsay Lohan screwing.” Charlotte replies, “Cool” They both awkwardly turn way from each other.

The bus ride is bumpy and filled with smells that should only be manufactured during wartime in a top secret facility and not coming from within the human body. Finally, Charlotte sees her stop and rings the bell. She gets up and begins to walk to the front of the bus, suddenly out of nowhere George slams on the brakes and Charlotte goes flying and lands in the sturdy lap of an attractive, dark haired, dark eyed well-dressed man. The man is texting; Charlotte is now sitting on said phone. “You gotta watch that first step she is a doozy” Charlotte sheepishly says with an awkward laugh. The man just blankly stares at her. Just then, the phone wedged underneath Charlotte’s butt and the man’s lap rings. Charlotte casually reaches underneath her posterior and yanks out the damp cell phone and hands it to the man, “Gives new meaning to butt dialing huh” Charlotte says with a nervous laugh. The man gives Charlotte an awkward smile. “Can you get off of me now, I have to take this” Charlotte grabs the pole and rolls herself off of the man, pulls down her skirt and staggers her way to the front of the bus. George is laughing. Charlotte glares and mutters “Dick” George continues to laugh, “Watch that first step now, it can be a doozy” and continues to laugh. Charlotte mocks George with a fake laugh and exits the bus. She looks down at her watch, “Shit I am so late!” Charlotte proceeds into her flailing chicken run.

The blaring and piercing ring of the alarm clock awakens Charlotte from her much needed slumber. Charlotte looks at the clock and decides to throw it across the room. Charlotte rolls over onto her stomach and mutters into her deflated pillow, “Dear God, it is too fucking early!” Monday’s always come too fucking early.

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Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me and for taking the time to read my ramblings each week – That does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go let me ask you this – Have you just felt like you were just a ‘hot mess’ in your life?  How did you deal with it – What are you own tips and tricks to help us fellow hot messes out?

I seriously CAN NOT wait for your answers!

Until next time,

I send you Love & Light Always,

Dina xxoo

Sadly, #MeToo

Hello, my fellow blog lovers and supporters, this week’s blog, we go deep, raw and have the much needed conversation that sadly we still need to be having – The topic of sexual assault.

OK take a deep breath and here we go…

If you don’t know who Harvey Weinstein is or what controversy he is embroiled in currently, then you really have been living under a rock.  He is the Hollywood Executive that has been accused of countless sexual assaults and rapes that span decades.  Sexual assault in Hollywood, is sadly not a new phenomenon.  Hollywood like many industries is indeed ‘male dominated’.  Trying to earn a spot or a name for yourself is an uphill battle to say the least.  “Only 7% of all film directors in the top 250 films of 2016 were women.” – Hollywood Reporter

So trying to work in a sea of men within this industry, who by their very nature are driven by power, greed and entitlement, it really isn’t shocking that countless women were subjected to the misogynist and criminal behavior of such a man as Harvey Weinstein.

For me – the more enlightening fall out of this scandal is how pervasive this ‘rape culture’ is not only in Hollywood but in society in general.  This point could not be more clear than with the hundreds of thousands of #MeToo hashtags that popped up on social media globally, showcasing all of the women who have been subjected to this behavior in their past, present and hopefully not their future.

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I too am included in this far reaching group of brave women, who tragically have been conditioned to accept that this is “just how things are” or “do you really want to open yourself up to scrutiny if you report this?” or as in the case of Hollywood, fear of reprisal or being blacklisted to never work again, ending their careers before they start.

When we have a section of society with such pervasive power over another – Abuse of power will always evolve and rear its ugly head.

When I look back on the COUNTLESS and I mean COUNTLESS times that I have been subjected to this behavior, I am appalled and heart broken.

  • From the young age of 9, being fondled by a 65 yr old family friend.
  • From being told at the tender age of 12 that “I would make a good wife one day, cause I had a nice set of baby hips on me.” (he was in his 50’s).
  • To the son of a boss I had in a local restaurant I worked at, feeling it was his right to grind up against me while I washed dishes, (I was 15).
  • To being a first year university student, being humiliated and reminded what my place was as a woman by a male professor and male student all because I tried to stand up for myself in class.
  • To the countless catcalls (the latest one was last week) or being called ‘Bitch’, ‘Cunt’, ‘Fat Ass’, ‘Slut’ because I didn’t react how they wanted to their advances.
  • Being told I could just be so much prettier if I learned to smile more.
  • To have a car full of 20 something yr old boys continuously circling and passing by me as I walked home, screaming obscenities, threatening to jump out and ‘take me for a ‘special’ ride”.

Finally the countless times I had a drink ‘accidentally’ spilled on me so the gracious suitor could ‘help’ me clean myself up – groping, smacking, hissing, intimidating me all done because they all believed they were entitled too.

So when I say I am saddened but not shocked you can probably understand why.

This incessant behavior groomed me to:

  • Watch what I am wearing
  • Be sure to not go out by myself late at night
  • Don’t get drunk when I go out
  • Never leave my drink alone
  • Never jog with headphones in
  • Never park in parking garages
  • Always walk in well-lit areas
  • Don’t make eye-contact
  • Never make eye-contact

And so on and so on…

All so as I don’t appear to be ‘asking for it’.

Staying silent and accepting that this is just how things are, condones and allows this despicable behavior to continue, fester and spread – Mutating into the epidemic that it clearly has become – Cut to the countless #MeToo stories we are bearing witness too today.

Staying silent and not telling my story until now means that I helped to perpetuate this disease and for that I am truly sorry. I will own that. I will own my complacency.

However, once you have truly been awoken – You can’t simply go back to sleep.

Today, I say No MORE!

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No more sitting idly by and not saying something when I witness off colour jokes, misogynist comments, intimidation, humiliation, bullying, catcalling, unwanted touching, groping, raping, assaulting.

NO FUCKING MORE!

As a woman, please know it is not your fault, it has NEVER been your fault when you were victimized, harassed or assaulted.  To the men who have or think they want to participate in this unspeakable misogynist and entitled behavior – This shit is gonna end.  We’re fed up.  You’ve been warned and you will be held accountable.

On the flip side, to all the men who have been loving, supportive and respectful to women – We salute and encourage you to continue to be the beacons of what REAL men are and pray that you will choose to speak up when you bear witness and choose to raise your sons to be compassionate, good hearted and respectful members of the human race.

I know we have a long way to go, but, having this conversation and bringing it out of the darkness of denial and into the light, is such an important first step. And I for one am ready to leap, are you?

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blog writing journey with me.  Your support and taking the time to read my perspectives each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go, let me ask you this – How will YOU join the movement to say ‘NO MORE’ to sexual assault/harassment in your communities?

Please leave your comments in the space provided below, so we can continue to have this much needed conversation.

Until next time,

Love & Light I send to each and every one of you especially my #MeToo sistahs,

Dina xxoo

 

 

 

Be The Hero(ine) In Your Own Story…

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

What a crazy week weather wise we have been having huh?  Blazing hot and now I literally saw my breath walking to the Go-Train the other morning and now back to hot again – Nuts!

What has also been crazy has been the SENSELESS killing, terror and hurting of innocent people around the globe this past weekend – I don’t know about you, but this has left me shaken and lost.  This sense of loss and purpose really got me to look within and discover what can I do when thoughts and prayers really are not enough.

Allow me to explain…

Now this blog, is not going to be the typical – ‘Us Vs Them’, ‘Lone Gunman Vs Terrorist’ portrayal in the media or the ABSOLUTE need for stricter gun control in the United States.  These are all relevant topics and quite frankly these are already rampant on social media and in the media itself, so my 2 cents really won’t make a ripple in the tidal wave of ‘after the fact’ responses that we are all being inundated with at the moment and for days to come – No, I choose to take a different approach – An approach that ALL of us can take and can truly make a difference in this world for the better.  Simply put – Be the change you wish to see in this world.

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I know this quote has been thrown around over the years, looks lovely on a carefully crafted Meme or sounds profound when discussing current events and you want to give your own 2 cents on how we need to change the world, but what does it actually mean?

Many of us see and feel overwhelmed by the events happening around us every day – homelessness, war, destruction, death, shootings, hatred, you name it – And many, if not all of us think – Well I’m just one person, what the hell can I do to change this or have a positive impact with something so large and so pervasive in society?

Turns out, we have been looking at this all wrong – It’s not what can we do to tackle these huge problems, it’s what can we do living our day to day lives to cause a ripple effect for possible global change. That is the answer in my opinion.

Believe it or not – You, yes YOU ‘Joe blow’, ‘Debbie nobody’ have the capacity to impact lives!

How you choose to live your life, directly or indirectly impacts those around you.  Let me say it again – How YOU choose to live your life, impacts those around you!

Let me tell you a story –  A few years ago, when I was still in my belly dancing troupe phase of my life – Yes this did happen 😛 I remember this one time before a performance we were putting on locally, myself and some fellow dancers decided to drop into a Starbucks that was close to where we were getting ready. We entered and went to the counter all decked out in our glittery gear and make up.  I was the last of us to get to the counter to order.  When I got to the counter the lovely girl behind the counter took one look at me and her jaw dropped and she blurted out “it’s, you” “it’s really you” Now I was confused and bewildered at her reaction, and I responded with, “Um yeah it’s me” “You don’t remember me do you?” Sadly, no I did not.  “You work at White Spot right?” “No I haven’t worked there in like 3 years” I said “I remember you were working there.  We were both on the bus and we had a conversation.  I really needed to talk to someone that day, I was feeling really down and there you were. You really helped me that day and I knew that if I ever got to meet you again I wanted to say thank you.”  Well I was completely taken aback and moved.  How could my benign small talk with a complete stranger on public transit over 3 years previously have affected someone so greatly?

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Whatever the reason, it did, and from that point forward I have never taken for granted how a kind word, a kind gesture or kind act can positively affect someone.  All of US hold that power and it is up to each of us to dispel it in our day to day lives in how we choose to live and interact with others daily.

THIS we can control.  So instead of thinking of the big issues that would paralyze anyone with their sheer magnitude and complexity, instead try thinking small, and how you can be the catalyst to start that domino effect of more positivity and healing in a world that quite frankly needs a shit ton of it.  For as I clearly found out, you just never know who you might be affecting in the process, and that includes yourself.

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me, you taking the time to read my ramblings each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before we go let me ask you this, has a stranger’s kind act ever impacted you unknowingly or have you impacted someone unknowingly with a kind act yourself?

I really can’t wait to hear all of your stories!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light Especially Now,

I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

This Adulting Thing Is Not What It’s Cracked Up To Be!

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters!

Welcome to Fall folks or maybe an extended Summer given the hot ass weather we have been experiencing these past few days!  I’m OK with holding onto summer just that little bit longer, but maybe not on ‘Broil” if you know what I mean. 😛

I don’t know about you, but Fall always makes me feel a bit reminiscent or nostalgic of what I still want to achieve in the current calendar year and how I need to refocus and renew my commitment to me and the steps I need to take in order to achieve said remaining goals.  As the colourful leaves are falling, I am reminded that if you are committed to positive change and being in the present, time will slip away, and before you know it, the beauty that was always around you will slip away right before your eyes.

Safety and security is something we all strive for in life, but is it the right choice?

Allow me to explain…

When I was younger, I was very shy, awkward and so unsure of myself and my abilities.  I always felt like an outsider in my own life, like I was looking from the outside inwards and was witnessing someone else – Not the true essence of who I was inside, buried way down deep underneath all the low self-esteem, clumsiness and self-loathing.  As you can gather, I wasn’t a popular kid, generally stayed in the shadows where it was safe and secure.  But, inside there was a bit of a wild child in some ways, aching and fighting to break free and come to the surface.  She was regularly told to ‘shut it’ and ‘pipe down’ and keep her crazy notions to herself. She wasn’t really allowed to speak and take the stage until I was well into my teens – I finally got to the point where I said ‘Fuck this’ “I’m going to be what I want to be and if that ruffles some feathers then so be it!”  That is when my true ‘artistic and creative’ freedom for expression came to the surface and it was glorious!

 

I was in theatre, band (I played alto saxophone and no we never went to band camp..lol.. – look out Kenny G :P), outdoor club, environmental committee, broadcasting club, soccer and basketball – You name it I was probably a member of it in high school.  There was such a feeling of freedom and liberation when you dictate how you want your life to go without worrying if you ‘fit in’ or not.

Then inevitably comes adulthood and all that liberation seems to go to the wayside because of responsibilities and the prescribed need for safety and security.   But what if that is NOT the life you want to live?

The problem with living a ‘safe’ life for me can be described in a few ways.  But before I go any further, allow me to say that being ‘safe’ is just fine and I am not nullifying or condemning anyone for choosing this way of life.  Not at all, if this is your conscience choice, kudos to you for choosing how you want to live!

I’ve been testing out those waters of safety and security for quite some time now and I do have to admit it hasn’t been all bad – I do find some solace in feeling safe and secure, don’t get me wrong.  But, there is this other side of me, that rebel who wore Doc Martins with EVERYTHING and I mean everything, piercings, tattoos, black lipstick and my own version of a female flock of seagulls hair cut – Just ask my Mom and the countless times she would pretend she didn’t know me out in public because of my crazy get ups – Tee hee sorry Mom 😛

Well that rebel, wild child has been knocking, nay she had been kicking trying to knock down the door and be heard.  Not just in a whisper, but in a blood curdling scream for quite some time now.  I keep telling her to shhh and be quiet – The ‘adults’ are talking.   She pouts, and goes back into her corner, stomping and crossing her arms in front of her body all the while giving me the old stink eye.  As we know full well, most petulant teens will not remain quiet for long, nor if they truly believe in something will not back down until they are heard.

 

I think taking the plunge by coming to Toronto on a spur of the moment 3-month contract has stirred up thoughts and emotions in me that have been dormant or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention to them for a very long time.  What I do know is, ‘Someday’ is NEVER going to come.  If you are like me who has been telling yourself that ‘someday’ when I have this amount of money, ‘someday’ when I reach this weight or ‘someday’ when I get my dream job – you eventually realize that someday is NOW and its time to take that leap! Life can and will just keep on chugging along with or without your ‘someday’ and it’s up to you to take those moments and make them your own.

I deserve to make ‘someday’ today.  It is time to go all in on me.  I believe that I am worth that, what about you?

It’s time to dust off those old Doc Martins, that Sex Pistols T-shirt and see what colour purple my next hairstyle just might be.  What other crazy stunts will I be up to?  Who knows, you will have to stay tuned to find out…

Thank you all once again for coming on this blog writing journey with me.  Your support and you taking the time to read my ramblings each week, does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But before we go let me ask you this, if YOUR someday was today what would you choose to achieve?

I am so looking forward to your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Zucchini Lasagna – The Healthy Alternative

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

Another week has come and gone and we are inching closer and closer to Autumn – cooler temps, jacket and boots, the GORGEOUS colourful landscape of the changing fall colours all over this wonderful Niagara region and even more importantly in my books, the launch of the all to important indulgence of my all-time favorite thing – COMFORT FOOD!

I don’t know about you, but when I think about comfort food, I think decadence, ooey gooey goodness and all over yummy taste.

Unfortunately, the downside of indulging in these delicacies is the all too familiar increase in the waistline and tighter fitting clothes.  So, to avoid this but still include the all too important flavour component, but possibly make it a bit more figure friendly, I thought that I would give a go to a more ‘healthier’ version of my all-time favourite comfort food indulgence – Lasagna, ooey gooey and downright delicious.

So I got my thinking cap on and came up with this – A Zucchini Lasagna.  Yup you heard me right, zucchini lasagna with all the taste.  Like with any of my recipes I post here, please feel free to add and or subtract for your own taste buds and preferences.  Just as a reminder, all of my measurements are by feel (don’t like it, blame my Mom, that is how she taught me to cook :P)  By all means, adjust accordingly.  Annnnd here we go…

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Zucchini Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 – medium sized green and or yellow zucchinis
  • 1 – small eggplant (Optional)
  • 1 – package of lean ground turkey (Omit if want to make it vegetarian)
  • 1 – jar tomato sauce (I was lucky that my Mom had just made a batch of her homemade sauce so that is what I used, but by all means store bought works just fine)
  • 1 – Medium tub of ricotta cheese
  • 2 – eggs
  • ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp of dried parsley
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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Directions

Slice zucchini and or eggplant into ¼ of an inch slices lengthwise.  Set to the side.  Sautee the lean ground turkey in a fry pan with some olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Tip: if you would like to add more veggies this is a perfect time to add some sliced mushrooms, diced onion and or diced bell peppers into the mix here.  Saute till soft and golden brown.  Add the jar of tomato sauce. Leave a ¼ cup of the sauce to the side to be used as the first layer to coat the bottom of the baking dish.  Continue sauteing until bubbling.  Set to the side.  Add Olive Oil to a hot fry pan and place salt and peppered zucchini and eggplant strips in the pan on medium high.  Continue to fry until all of the strips are golden brown on both sides. Set to the side.  In a medium mixing bowl, add the container of ricotta cheese, the 2 eggs, parmesan and parsley and mix together until well incorporated.  Time to build.

Put that tomato sauce you put to the side, coating the bottom of a 9 X 9 baking dish.  Add a single layer of the sauteed zucchini.  Add the tomato sauce/ground turkey mixture on top. Add a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Add another layer of zucchini/eggplant.  Add the ricotta mixture on top.  Continue layering in this order until you reach the top of the dish.  Top it with a layer of the tomato sauce mixture and a good layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Add as much or as little of the cheese as you like.  Obviously, cheese has a high fat count so if you want to make this even healthier use it sparingly.  If fat count be dammed (gotta admit you are my kind of people) then slather as much as you want. 😛

Place in a 375-degree oven and bake until the top is golden brown and bubbling with goodness.  Let cool for around 5 minutes before you slice into nice size serving wedges.  This would go well with a nice side salad or even just on its own with a nice glass of wine.  I had a nice crisp glass of local Riesling and it made a lovely combo of flavours.  Gotta admit, this has to be one of the easiest ways to get your kids to get some vegetables, hide it under the tomato sauce and cheese!

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I cannot wait to hear how this recipe goes for all of you.  But, before we go, let me ask you this – What is YOUR favourite comfort food and how have you made it a bit more ‘waist friendly’, but tasty for your family?

Looking forward to hearing all of your answers!

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me and for taking the time to read my ramblings each and every week.  It does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Until next time,

Love and Light Always,

Dina xxoo

 

My ‘Submergence’ Into The Toronto Film Festival

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters!

It has been far too long, I’ve missed all of your ‘virtual’ shiny, happy faces.  Thank you all for being so patient with me in my absence.  As many of you know, I accepted a new position which required me to relocate temporarily to Toronto for 3 months.  With the move, the full time work hours, along with my own client’s needs, life, family etc.etc. Finding time to think, never mind write, has been a losing battle to say the least.  Now that I have been at this for over a month now, things are starting to settle into a routine, so I have decided to get back on the writing horse, so to speak, I present to you this week’s blog – My adventure to my first ever Toronto International Film Festival film screening.

As you all know, I have decided to take a stab back into my creative roots, and try to get back into screenwriting once again, (currently on my second draft of my latest film short script, I will have you know.) 😛 But, what better way to get inspired than going to where all the greats in film are, right here in Toronto (coincidentally where I am as well for the first time) for the Toronto Film Fest.  It is like it was meant to be – That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

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Luckily for me, I was up right when the tickets for TIFF went on sale at 7am on Sept 5th. (purely because I am up for work, getting ready anyways)  There I was at 7:03am on the TIFF site to purchase tickets for Submergence, the latest Wim Wenders film, starring my latest crush and Scottish import, James McAvoy and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander.  As luck would have it, they were also confirmed to be there at the premiere on Sept 10th as well – SCORE!

As a treat for myself, I decided to meet a friend for drinks and appies beforehand. Walking up to the restaurant, I ended up walking by The Elgin Theatre, the very theatre where my screening was going to take place later that evening. Hundreds of film lovers were already lining up to be the first in line (might I add, nearly 2.5 hours ahead of the screening time), to catch a glimpse of Hollywood celebrity or two, possibly a selfie.  I mean let’s be real, selfies have become the new autograph in my opinion.

Always lovely to meet with friends, break bread, drink and laugh,  I never forget the value or gratitude of these moments. 🙂

Amy, graciously walked me back to the theatre so that I could get in line for the sold out screening.  We are coming up to the theatre and I ask the attendant “is this the line for the 6:15pm screening of Submergence?” She replies “Yes, but you need to get to the back.” Of course we do, I know that, I’m no line cutter.  So we proceed to walk back and I mean wayyyyyyyyyyyyy back of the line – Like a zig zag of 5 city blocks end of the line kinda back – Almost, like a weird film goers scavenger hunt of sorts.  Did, I mention I was 45 minutes early for the screening??? Over 1000 of us, scattered throughout the city waiting to watch a film, now that is commitment to art me thinks or maybe a commitment of seeing a smiling, blue eyed famous Scotsman possibly 😛

Once the line got moving, it actually moved rather quickly.  We approach the outside of the theatre and you can almost feel the energy of the many film goers and lovers who I found out later, waited to catch a glimpse of James arriving.  I find out that he graciously walked out into the crowd of screaming fans, happily signing autographs and taking the coveted prize selfie.  Just a side note – It always makes me giggle when I see a celebrity taking a selfie with a fan and the fan is fumbling with the phone, and the celeb just takes the phone out of their hand as if to say “Gimme that, I am a freaking pro at this.” Because honestly that would be me, not because I am nervous, just clumsy – #ButterFingers

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We enter into the theatre and my word it is BREATHTAKING – So ornate and regal!  I do apologize for no pics of the lobby as we were hurriedly rushed into the theatre as they were running a half an hour behind schedule.  I found a seat in the back and awaited the show with anticipation. And boy, they did not disappoint!

Wenders, McAvoy and 2 supporting actors took the stage to introduce tonight’s feature performance.  The lights went down and the two hour ‘cinematic water’ adventure began.

I have to say, it was visually stunning – A love story based around the elements of water, obstacles, love, passion, life and the possibility of death.  I know I am a bit biased, but I think James knocked it out of the park with his performance, which was both masculine mixed with fragility and vulnerability.  The onscreen chemistry between the two protagonists of Dani and James was electric, almost palpable in its intensity.  The one drawback I will say is that the plot progression lagged and stalled almost mid way through.  I believe they could easily cut about 20 minutes from this film to pick up the progression of the plot, adding the much needed element of urgency to this story line.  Overall, I really would recommend you all to go and see it if you get the chance.

(Clip of James explaining what drew him to the character of James More.  Sorry it’s blurred I was in the back row)

After the screening, all the actors and the director came back on the stage to answer questions from the audience. This is standard fare in film fests – Honestly, one of the reasons I LOVE going to them, getting to hear from the source all about their creative process, character and plot development.  I know that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but this really appeals to me and my inner film geek 🙂  James and Wim, were both personable, witty, sincere, funny and forthcoming – Nothing I wouldn’t expect from two respected professionals in their respected fields.

Overall, I had a lovely time and one day, one day maybe it will be MY film people will be lining up the block to see.  Just putting that out there universe…

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me.  Your support and taking the time to read my ramblings each week does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But, before I go, let me ask you all this – What is YOUR favourite film of all time is and what made it your fav? I look forward to your answers!

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I wish to you always,

Dina xxoo